INTOLERANCE HARDENS TOWARDS GAYS ACROSS AFRICA
Jan. 14 (GIN) – Governments across Africa are decreeing new punitive laws against gay nationals just as displays of tolerance and acceptance are being seen around the world.
Nigeria, Cameroon and Uganda in the last few months all tightened existing laws that target the homosexual community, their organizations, meeting places, and anyone working within or for gay rights in Africa.
A so-called “Jail the Gays” bill was quietly signed earlier this month by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. Dorothy Aken-Ova, head of Nigeria’s International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights, said the law “encourages the persecution of gays and will endanger programs fighting HIV-AIDS.”
Same-sex couples face up to 14 years in jail for a gay marriage. Last week, police jailed dozens of gay men in Nigeria’s northern Bauchi state. A list of some 168 suspects is said to be in police hands, obtained through torture of the detainees.
In neighboring Cameroon, gays suffer greater persecution than in any other African country, according to the NY-based Human Rights Watch. In one tragic case, a gay man was left to die after his family yanked him from a hospital where he was receiving treatment, saying he was a curse for them and would be better off dead. Jean-Claude Mbede, who had served jail time for sending a text to a man which read: “I’m very much in love with you,” died last week at the age of 34.
Similarly in Uganda, gays live a precarious life since parliament last month passed a bill that punishes certain acts of homosexuality with life in prison.
“The knock-on effect of passing this bill will reach far beyond gay and lesbian people in Uganda, impeding the legitimate work of civil society, public health professionals and community leaders,” said the deputy Africa director at Amnesty International.
David Bahati, the Ugandan lawmaker who sponsored the bill, said: “This legislation is needed in this country to protect the traditional family here in Africa, and also protect the future of our children…”
Other countries with harsh anti-gay laws include Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Gambia, Mauritania, Sudan, Somalia and Zambia.
By contrast, Dr. Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, challenged claims that culture, tradition, and religion justify the marginalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people.
“Don’t fear,” Archbishop Makgoba said in a message to the gay community. “You’ve been given the task of helping humanity realize that we are called to respect and honor each other. People may say this is un-African, and I’m saying love cuts across culture.” w/pix of Dr. T. Makgoba
NEW CARDINALS FROM AFRICA AND HAITI TO HELP POPE SERVE THE POOR
Jan. 14 (GIN) – In a further step away from old traditions at the Vatican, Pope Francis named his first batch of cardinals, choosing 19 men from Asia, Africa, the Philippines and Latin America including the developing nations of Haiti and Burkina Faso. The selection affirms his belief that the church must pay more attention to the poor.
His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had chosen cardinals mostly from Western countries.
Sixteen of the appointees are younger than 80, and are eligible to elect the next pope. They also serve as advisors to the Pontiff as he re-shapes the institution.
With his selections, the Pope rebalances the Euro-centered representation of countries by cardinals. The Philippines, for example, had just one cardinal representing about 75 million Catholics while the U.S., with roughly the same number of Catholics, had 11. Latin American, with 400 million Catholics and growing, had just 15 voting age cardinals, while Europe, where church attendance is falling sharply, had 57.
Among the newly appointed Cardinals is Chibly Langlois, the Bishop of Les Cayes and the first Haitian Cardinal in history. Cardinal Langlois held several leadership positions in La Vallee, Jacmel, taught pastoral theology, and continues to serve the diocese of Fort Liberte.
Newly appointed Cardinal Jean-Pierre Kutwa of the Ivory Coast was ordained in 1971 and appointed Bishop of Gagnoa by John Paul II in 2001. He places great importance on ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. Mgr. Kutwa is also a music composer.
Finally from Burkina Faso, the Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Philippe Nakellentuba Ouédraogo, was ordained in 1973 and appointed Bishop in 1996 of Ouahigouya, a diocese with both a men’s and women’s contemplative monastery.
In 2010, Ouédraogo was called by Benedict XVI to lead the Archdiocese of Ouagadougou, where he stood out for the work he did in one of Africa’s poorest countries. w/pix of C. Langlois
HUNDREDS OF SOUTH SUDANESE REFUGEES LOST IN SINKING BOAT
Jan. 14 (GIN) – Some 200 civilians, mostly women and children, were lost in the waters of the Nile river as their crowded boat overturned at sea. The victims were fleeing heavy fighting that has been moving closer to the capital, Juba.
Fighting between the government forces of President Salva Kiir and troops loyal to the former vice president, Riek Machar, has displaced more than 400,000 people since mid-December, with the front lines constantly shifting.
Nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the latest fighting, according to an estimate by the International Crisis Group analyst.
President Yoweri Museveni of neighboring Uganda, who supports Kiir’s government, has entered the fray, sending helicopters and fighter jets. Ugandan officials deny their forces are involved in active combat, but a spokesman for the rebels, former South Sudan Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Kong, said Ugandans are bombing rebel positions.
Another pro-rebel official, Gideon Gatpan Thaor, said fighters described being hit with a smoky weapon that burns, possibly white phosphorous.
Ugandan journalist Milton Allimadi questioned the interference by Pres. Museveni. “Why is general Museveni allowed to deploy to South Sudan in a domestic conflict between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar, just weeks after his terror-army which committed war crimes was defeated in Congo?“ he asked.
Syracuse Prof. Horace Campbell weighed in: “In every society there are political struggles. However, when there are large reserves of petroleum and other resources these political struggles take on added dimensions and become regionalized and internationalized.”
“The ongoing talks in Addis Ababa must be the basis for a credible ceasefire and the disarming of the factions,” continued Campbell, writing in the online newsletter Pambazuka. “Peace activists internationally must expose the duplicity of foreign forces that are covertly supporting this militarized disruption of the newest African state.” w/pix of a boat survivor
U.S. TROOPS BOOST FORCES IN NIGERIA, SOMALIA
Jan. 14 (GIN) – U.S. forces, winding down in Afghanistan, are finding new battle fronts in Africa.
According to published reports, a small team of U.S. advisors was sent “secretly” to Somalia to assist with operations against militants. Somalia has been at war with religious fundamentalists, called Al Shabab, but has made little headway against the group which still controls a large swath of the country.
“It is the first time U.S. troops have been stationed there since two helicopters were shot down and 18 American soldiers were killed in 1993,” wrote David Cloud in the Los Angeles Times.
“The U.S. soldiers assist a force of more than 18,000 under the auspices of the African Union, backed by the U.S. and other Western countries since deploying to Somalia in 2007 with logistics help, intelligence and planning,” officials told Cloud.
Although a small presence now, the number of advisors could expand in the coming year, a senior Defense Dept. official told the paper, and become a “permanent presence” on the Horn of Africa. He called it something “that’s been in works for a while.”
On the western portion of the continent, the U.S. and Nigeria have been working on a joint effort against insurgency and terrorism in that country. This week, the Nigerian Army announced the establishment of a Nigerian Army Special Operation Command (NASOC) at a meeting with journalists in the capital city of Abuja.
The Command allows the army to have a special group of “highly patriotic Nigerians ready to make sacrifices in the face of extreme danger,” said the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Onyeabo Azubuike Iherjirika.
According to Gen. Ihejirika, the US, through its Africa Command, Special Operations Command Africa and the Office of Security Operations United State Embassy, is providing training assistance towards the quick set up of the NASOC.
At a recent Pentagon roundtable, Army Gen. David Rodriguez, who has led Africa Command since April, said he was “optimistic about the future.”
“Our basic premise is that it is Africans who are best able to address African challenges, and our strategy focuses on developing partner nations’ military forces through a wide variety of programs,” he said.
He acknowledged problems on the continent – Mali, South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic – which require regional and international attention, but added: “I strongly believe our cooperative approach … will make enduring change possible.” w/pix of Africans training